Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


A tale of customer service

Some of you know that I spent most of my career in banking. The last 13 years of it were spent in mortgage banking, but the before that, for about 7 years I was management in retail banking. IE, a branch manager.

I managed different sized offices during that stint, some really small, some really big. All of them were busy, back in the days before electronic paychecks and even before ATM machines.

I remember lines out the door on General Motor’s weekly paydays. And cars constantly lined up in the drive-throughs on Friday evening when we stayed open late.

Working with the public can be stressful. I get that. But somewhere along the line customers got cut out of the service equation.

This week I realized my credit card was expiring at the end of May and I hadn’t received a replacement card. I’ve had this card since 1980. It says so right there on the plastic, and I’ve never had an issue like this.

So I figured I’d just call in and find out when I might expect the card. It wasn’t like I had any grand purchases planned, but it’s handy to have. I called the 800 number on the back of my card, the number for Customer Service.

After listening to several instructions to push 1 or say yes or no, I listened to a few advertisements for things they could do for me, none of which I was interested in. And interspersed between the ads, were suggestions about how much easier it could be if I’d just download the mobile app. Or perhaps I’d like to go to their website where surely I could solve all my problems.

All of this repeated for many long excruciating minutes, with ugly background noise disguised as music enhancing my enjoyment. They were experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and the wait time might be unusually long.

Huh. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 they were experiencing a high volume of calls? OK, I needed to go to band rehearsal, so after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to try again on another day.

Early Wednesday morning I called again. The same irritating music, the same ‘high volume of calls.’ I waited almost 20 minutes and hung up in disgust. It was obvious they were not interested in talking to me.

So I decided, what the heck, I’ll just drive to my local branch with my expired card and have them help me figure out what to do. Seemed so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think to do that from the start.

This afternoon I stopped by my branch.

There was nobody sitting at any of the customer service desks. The lights on that side of the building weren’t even on. There was a stock broker in a suit sitting in his office, but he wasn’t the appropriate person to fix my credit card issue.

Behind the teller line was one man, talking to a customer about a problem. It seemed quite complicated. At the far end of the teller line counter was another man running money through a counting machine. I couldn’t see it, but I’ve been around equipment like that enough to recognize the sound.

He never looked up.

I waited at the “enter here” sign for the employee to finish with the only other customer in the building. I waited a long time. And I noted he did not provide a solution to the customer’s problem.

Finally the man with the problem left and I approached the teller window. “You’ll need to go down there,” said the employee, nodding his head at the man on the end, still busy counting money. “I don’t have any money.” And he began to walk away.

“I don’t need money.” I said.

“Then what do you want?” he asked.

Yep, I’m feeling really weird about this whole place now. No customers, no staff, not even a teller working the drive-through, the curtains there are drawn, there’s no equipment on the counters, something seems off.

“Are you still a full service bank?” I asked.

“Why do you ask,” said the guy still counting money.

“Because there’s no one here.” I responded.

“We just had a bunch of people call in sick.” he replied.


Anyway, I told the employee about my expired credit card and he said he couldn’t do anything from the branch and gave me a phone number to call.

An 800 number.

Apparently it’s my responsibility to fix this problem. And I’m not going to get any help from my local branch. If they’re even a branch at all.

I know I’m not alone, but when did customer service stop being a thing? And why must we only deal with people far away in call centers which must be so understaffed that exceptionally high call volume is really the norm and not an exception at all.

Maybe I’m just an old baby boomer who likes to reminisce about the way things used to be. But you youngsters should have been around when customer service ruled. When you got to talk to people face to face. And when they did their best to solve a problem rather than pass it on.

Or back to the customer.

Yep, those were the days. You’d have been amazed.

Note: images are from a walk last month at my favorite park. I never got them into a post, so I figure even if you don’t want to read about banking, and who would, you might enjoy the birds.


Something beyond stars

Well not really beyond.

On the drive up I stopped for this patch of trillium.

A friend and I were camping in the Sleeping Bear National Park earlier this month specifically to spend as many nights as possible shooting the stars in that big beautiful dark sky country.

Arriving at site 312. It had electricity!

But let’s be honest, I took a lot of other pictures too. After all, what does a photographer do all day while waiting for it to get true dark?

All set up for our 5 night stay.

Well, we sat in camp a bit. And cooked lovely meals.

Yum. She brought the fish, I brought the chicken salad and bread.

We enjoyed the campfire in the cool evenings.

Trying to get warm.

And we got a little shuteye as we waited for the Milky Way to rise.

All buttoned up for a nap.

Of course we also went on a hike or two through the countryside, enjoying the newly greening forest…

This hike it was all about the late afternoon light.

…and the wildflowers pushing up from a long winter nap.

I can’t remember what this is, but it sure was pretty!

There’s plenty to do while you’re waiting for the stars to come out.

Hiking past a lake made during the times of glaciers. We were cold just thinking about that.

I haven’t even begun to process the images of the old barns and the orchards in bloom that we saw. And I still have seven stacks of star images to process.

Pretty sure it’s not edible.

So there’s going to be plenty to share once I get all the work done.

While you’re waiting you might want to go on a walk somewhere pretty too.

But it’s going to take awhile.


I met a boy and I liked it!

Hey there, Peeps!

Penny here. Mom says she has more star pictures and camping pictures and barn pictures to show you, but I told her you’d rather see me! Cause I have to tell you about my date with Lance!

My friend Lance

Yep, my mom and Lance’s mom arranged a play date on Tuesday. Lance turns 1 year old tomorrow, so he’s about 6 months older than me. Isn’t he handsome?

I was smitten as soon as I met him. We hit it off right away because we both love to run! All four of our folks sat in chairs in the shade and talked and watched us play.

Our first nose touch.

Of course they made us take breaks pretty often, but we still played a lot!

Our first run together.

And Lance told me lots of secrets about how to get what you want from your parents. After all he has six more months of experience than me. I appreciated the intel.

He gave me lots of good advice.

But mostly we were just two crazy dogs having a wonderful time.

You can’t catch me!

And in between runs we got treats! What a wonderful day!

An excellent break from all that running!

Neither of us could believe our luck, to have a nice sunny day and a big yard to play in and four people to pay attention to us and provide drinks and treats!

Lance has the biggest water dish ever!

I’ll tell you a secret. I think Lance sort of likes me.

I think he’s blushing.

And I sort of like him too.

Whispering sweet nothings in his ear

Then of course the moms decide they should get a picture of the two of us sitting together.

Hey Lance! Let’s make them work for it!

Why do moms always do this? Does it seem like a good idea? I haven’t even graduated from puppy school yet, why would I want to sit and stay?

What is this stay thing you keep asking for?

Yep, it went about as well as you could expect.

OK, get the shot quick, cause I’m not sitting here one more second!

And just to add another little wrinkle to this photo shoot idea, they brought out Payton, Katie’s half sister, and decided they wanted a picture with all three of us!

This should be interesting.

Well. Payton is an old pro and sat stoically while all sorts of shenanigans went on beside her. It helps, I guess, that she’s deaf.

Stay means jump really high. Right?

I’m sure she was tired of sitting there, but finally mom got one shot of the three of us.

Payton was pretty disgusted by then.

We weren’t exactly all sitting. Ahem. But I did the best I could.

Mom ended up just taking pictures of the other two….

Handsome brother Lance and beautiful sister Payton.

…and then just of Payton, because mom says she looks so much like Katie, she couldn’t help but take a bunch of pictures of her. Mom was really glad she got to see Payton again.

Mom’s eyes leaked just a little bit.

And I got jealous and decided maybe I did too want my picture taken with my sister’s half sister.

Hey! Maybe I’ll pose for a picture after all!

And then Lance and I went back to playing!

Hey Lance! Wanna PLAY???

We played and played, and I started a lot of it!

I think we’ve met our match!

I couldn’t resist jumping on him to see if he’d run with me.

Come on! Let’s PLAY!!

And then the folks said we should go for a walk! A walk? Are you crazy? Lance and I just ran about a gazillion miles!

This was the perfect way to end our first date!

But their property was so pretty and shady that we all had a wonderful time exploring. Next time I expect I’ll be able to be off my leash and explore even more, just like Tally, Lance and Payton’s really big sister, and Payton.

Meet Tally. She’s such a good girl!

Isn’t she beautiful?

And then, after our walk when I thought we were going home, Lance’s mom and my dad got my loose ear glued down again.

What the heck, people!

And then it was time to say goodbye for now.

Three little shelties all in a row. Then mom said one had to go.

Boy I had a wonderful time.

Bye for now, Lance!

Today I sat by one of my windows and watched the clouds go by and dreamed of running in a big field with my friend Lance.


Missing you, my friend.


A guided walk

Saturday morning I walked in one of Katie’s parks along with 10 other people and an expert guide, to see the wildflowers blooming and tour some of the projects the township is working on to make more of the area open to the public.

One of several steep hills we climbed.

It was two plus miles of hills and wetlands, lots of little things blooming, and a cold, sunny day. I was very glad I’d worn waterproof shoes, and three layers of shirts!

Our guide told us what this was, but I can’t remember the name of it now.

I had just driven back home Friday afternoon, after five days of camping near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in cold, sometimes rainy, weather. I was kind of tired and thought about skipping this guided walk. It would be so easy to sleep in.

Tiny little white lady’s slippers just beginning to bloom.

But we were going to explore parts of the park I’ve never been to and I didn’t want to miss that, so I went. And I’m glad I did.

A lone trillium.

There will soon be so much more of the park available to explore, and I think it will be nice to have areas of the park that are new, without memories of Katie, that can be Penny’s alone.

Wild germanium

I can’t wait to show it all to her. They say the bridge from the parking lot to the new sections should be ready this fall. I don’t know, it seems like there is still a lot of work to do. But our guide, who is in charge of all the township parklands, says he’s confident they’ll get it all done.


Meanwhile I’ll probably take Penny over to walk the trails Katie and I used to wander. The last time Katie and I were there she had a really good walk. Where before she had often refused to walk down the big hills, on this last walk, in the fall of 2021, she was eager to go.

I don’t know what this is, but it was pretty!

She walked much further than I expected her to, and even jumped over a tree branch that had fallen over the trail.

How fun! We got to go down trails that were normally off limits!

So I have those good memories to ease me into sharing her park with her new little sister, Penny.


The guided walk helped me, too, to see the park without Katie, but to realize she’ll always be there with me, just like she is in so many places.

Hi mama!

And that’s good.


Spring into my yard

You can’t beat spring in Michigan. I used to tell my mother, who had moved along with my dad to Alabama in 1980, that she no longer appreciated spring like we who still lived in the north did.

That without the freezes and snow and frigid wind she didn’t have a true understanding of how wonderful spring can be.

She disagreed. She said she didn’t need to freeze to know warmth.

I suppose not, but I have to think that those of us living here in the north (and there is much more north north of me!) are much more grateful for those warm days than people living in the perpetually sunny south.

She used to say they had fall colors down there too. But that’s an entirely different post.

Anyway, this is just a long winded way to share the spring that is happening right this minute in my backyard.

For those of you living further to the north of me, this is what I’m sending to you as soon as I’m done with it.

But, to be honest, I might not be done with it for several more weeks.

It was a long, tough winter around here.

And we’re due for some relief.

Yes we are.



May is my favorite month hands down. I wish more of the year could be just like May.

So much hope resides in May. The gardens are just waking up, there’s still time to dream about what might be planted and harvested, before the heat of summer bakes the earth and the weeds and insects take over.

Walks in the woods in May are comfortable, a light breeze and sun filtering through newly opening leaves.

Lots of birds come back to town.

Trees are blooming.

Skies are blue. There’s so much to look forward to and I can hardly wait for summer.

But I want May to last a couple months first.


A dreamy conversation

Katie visited me in my dreams last night. I can’t remember the entire conversation, but I remember some, and the comfort her visit provided:

“Hey mama, I love you.”

“I know you do, baby-girl.”

Yea, but it seemed like maybe you needed to hear it.”

“Yes, I’ve been missing you something terrible.”

“I’ve noticed, mama. You’ve got to stop thinking about the day I crossed the bridge.”

“I know. But everywhere I look I remember you.”

“I’d think you’d be too busy with the new kid to spend much time missing me.”

“You’d think, right?”

“She seems like an OK kid, mama, but you can’t let her break all the rules, you know?”

“Like I did with you, huh?”

“Well, yea. Like you did with me. You’ve noticed she’s really smart, right?”

“Oh yes, we’ve noticed.”

“Well, she’s going to want to do lots of stuff, and some of it will be stuff you did with me and you can’t be crying all the time, OK? It’s not fair to the kid.”

“You’re right. I can’t be doing that. She deserves more from her mom.”

“She doesn’t call you mama?”

Nope, you’re the only one that calls me that. She calls me mom. But I’ll always be your mama.”

“I know mama. Always.”

“Always and forever, baby girl.”

“OK mama, now get going on the training…I watched that yellow flower photo shoot and frankly she’s got a lot to learn.”

“Awww give her a break, sweetie. She’s only 5 months old. She’ll figure it out once she stops putting everything into her mouth..”

“I know, mama. Well, I just wanted to stop by and tell you I love you. And to remind you to do right by the kid. I’m watching.”

Thanks, Katie-girl, it sure was nice of you to stop by.”

“Oh, I’m always here, mama. Always.”

“I know baby-girl. I know.”